- Craig Haubert, RecruitingNation
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All six members of the ACC's Atlantic Division went bowling this past season. Now the division's members aim to secure good recruits. Five ACC teams finished in the top 25 in ESPN.com's 2008 recruiting class rankings, with three ACC teams from the Atlantic Division. Clemson finished in the top five and landed the top player in the country, DE Da'Quan Bowers. The ACC likely will not reach such heights this year, but there is some good talent in the 2009 class, and a few more talented recruits could be on the way.
Located in a less then stellar recruiting base and with tough academic restrictions, recruiting to Boston College has never been easy, but things could be a little tough for the Eagles down the stretch with the recent turmoil at their head coaching spot. The current class, which has 12 commitments looks pretty solid, but it may be tough to bring good recruits on board with the current situation. The Eagles though should be able to quickly get back on track with the hiring of longtime Eagles assistant Frank Spaziani. His familiarity with Boston College and what it takes to succeed there should have a positive impact on recruiting. Of the 12 commitments, nine hail from either the Northeast.
Top prospect: The Eagles' current top prospect is a local product and a good addition to a fine defensive unit that ranked fifth nationally during the 2008 season. Cornerback Jim Noel (Everett, Mass.) has an excellent frame to develop and could play safety for the Eagles. Noel displays good speed and nice closing burst. Once he adds bulk, he could develop into an intimidating presence over the middle for the Eagles' defense.
What to expect: It is unlikely that the Eagles current class will fall part especially now with naming of Spaziani as head coach. With that being said, don't be surprised if the Eagles finish last in the ACC in the recruiting rankings. Spaziani has a lot of work to do to give this class a boost in a short amount of time.
It has been a year of highs and lows for Clemson on the recruiting trail. The Tigers finished the 2008 recruiting cycle with the No. 2 ranked class in the nation. They began to follow that up with another top-five caliber class. At one point, two of the top three safeties in the nation had committed to Clemson. But after a disappointing start to the season, Tommy Bowden was fired, and things quickly fell apart for Clemson. The Tigers saw several decommitments while they tried to salvage their season with an interim head coach. Another top-five finish no longer seems possible, but coach Dabo Swinney did get things back on track and seems poised to lead Clemson to a good recruiting finish. Clemson has four ESPNU 150 prospects and recently added top-10 receiver Bryce McNeal (Minneapolis/Breck), an impressive get. The class also boasts offensive lineman J.K. Jay (Greenville, S.C./Christ Church), who already is on campus, and Malliciah Goodman (Florence, S.C./West), a promising defensive end prospect who could combine with Bowers to give Clemson a formidable bookend duo.
Top prospect: Clemson's current top prospect would fill a major need for the Tigers. Under Armour All-American linebacker Eric Fields (Warner Robins, Ga./Northside) is still a bit raw and needs to add bulk but can run and has a tall frame. Fields has good range and can be an asset in pass coverage as a linebacker. He will make plays but will need to develop his game; he is best on the move and could have difficulty playing in tight spaces. Fields has good tools, but at this point, he may be a slightly better athlete than football player. Still, his upside is nice for Tigers fans.
What to expect: Fields' commitment to the Tigers has seemed tenuous at times. Fields should end up with Clemson, but we would not be surprised to see the No. 5-rated outside linebacker elsewhere.
Legendary head coach Bobby Bowden is slated to come back for a 34th season, and he already has a strong class assembled as teams head into the homestretch. The Seminoles have 17 commitments, four of whom are rated in the ESPNU 150. The key to this class is defense. The nation's 15th-rated unit is reloading well, especially along the defensive front. With sack artist Everette Brown bolting for the NFL, the addition of explosive DE Demonte McAllister (Tampa, Fla./Alonso) is big. The quickness of the Under Armour All-American will enable him to pick up some of the slack caused by Brown's departure, and he has the versatility and experience to play at the three-technique tackle position. The class also features some tall receiving targets, including the 6-foot-6 Rodney Smith (Miami/Archbishop Carroll), a top-20 receiver prospect.
Top prospect: The top prospect in the Seminoles' class is one of the top prospects in the nation. Defensive tackle Jacobbi McDaniel (Greenville, Fla./Madison County) is the nation's fifth-rated prospect. McDaniel, the top-rated defensive tackle, lacks ideal height, but he proved on film and in the Under Armour All-America Game that he can overcome that and be a truly disruptive presence in the trenches. He uses his shorter frame to win the leverage battle. Because of his excellent strength, McDaniel is able to take on and control bigger blockers. He also is very quick and tough to handle. He can get penetration and be productive versus the run and pass. McDaniel should contribute immediately to this Florida State defense.
What to expect: Prospect Willie Downs (Tallahassee, Fla./Godby), an ESPNU 150 prospect, will play safety for the Seminoles. Downs originally was listed as a wide receiver, but when he entered the 150 recently, he switched to athlete. Projected by many to play wide receiver in Tallahassee, we feel his skills may be better suited for Mickey Andrews' defense.
The knock on Maryland's class is that too much good in-state talent is slipping away. Of the state's top 10 prospects seven have committed elsewhere. But this recruiting cycle has some good news to report. The state's No. 3-rated prospect, Travis Hawkins (Gaithersburg, Md./Quince Orchard), is on board with the Terps, and Maryland also has landed defensive end DeOnte Arnett (Forestville, Md.) and running back Caleb Porzel (Wheaton, Md./Good Counsel). Maryland has a big class with 22 prep commitments and nine states represented.
Top prospect: The Terps dipped into Georgia to land their top prospect -- D.J. Adams (Norcross, Ga.), an ESPNU 150 running back. He is a compact and thickly built runner who can be a workhorse for Maryland. Although Adams does not display great breakaway speed, he is more than a north-south bruiser. He has deceptive shiftiness, hits the hole hard and quickly reaches top-end speed. Adams is tough to tackle, and when he makes cuts, he quickly gets squared up to run with power. He is best running downhill. He's not a big-play back, but he can help to wear down defenses and has enough power to rip off a big run. Both of Maryland's top rushers are backs, but Adams is a good addition.
What to expect: The state's top prospect probably won't land with the in-state Terps. Linebacker Jelani Jenkins (Wheaton, Md./Good Counsel) likely will attend an out-of-state school. Penn State, which has had good success recruiting in Maryland, could snatch another one away from the Terps. Jenkins is likely a lost cause, but Maryland could do well in New Jersey. It could land prep teammates defensive tackle Isaac Holmes and defensive end Bernardo Nunez (Hoboken, N.J.) or least one of the pair.
Coach Tom O'Brien went south to work from a more fertile recruiting base, but the ex-Boston College coach still keeps a pretty broad recruiting scope. The Wolfpack have been very busy and have 27 commits in their 2009 recruiting class. They also have tapped into a few non-pipeline states such as New Jersey, Ohio and even Massachusetts. Of course, NC State has been very active in the South and has landed players in North Carolina such as athlete Everett Proctor (Fayetteville, N.C./Jack Britt). There are no ESPNU 150 players on board this year, but NC State's class is solid. Trying to help its passing game, NC State has a pair of good receivers on board in Quintin Payton (Anderson, S.C./T.L. Hanna) and Bryan Underwood (Cleveland/Cleveland Heights). It also has made some moves to improve its defensive line with two top-50 prospects in Brian Slay (Ashburn, Va./Stone Bridge), the No. 41-rated end, and Deion Roberson (Tucker, Ga.), the No. 48 tackle.
Top prospect: The Wolfpack finished in the bottom half of the ACC in run defense. This week, they added a talented run-stuffer in Raynard Randolph (Brandywine, Md./Gwynn Park). NC State went into the backyard of ACC rival Maryland and plucked the big defensive tackle. He has the tools to be a tough run defender between the tackles and could make it tough for opposing ACC teams to run at him. He is strongest against the run but also can help to collapse the pocket as a pass-rusher. Randolph also could play as an offensive lineman. He was a good pickup for the conference's eighth-ranked rushing defense.
What to expect: NC State's class is so big that it won't be shocking if it loses a player or two. Still, the Wolfpack are coming off a weekend during which they added a pair of key defensive line recruits. O'Brien clearly is working to close strong.
The Demon Deacons have proven they can win consistently under head coach Jim Grobe, and recruiting is picking up as a result. Wake Forest has 21 commitments and has shown a defensive theme at the top of the class in an effort to add to the 16th-ranked defensive unit in the country. The class also has strong Florida ties -- especially at the top. Of Wake's top seven commits, five are defensive prospects, four of whom hail from Florida. Top-40 corner Rishard Anderson (Plantation, Fla./American Heritage) has a nice blend of speed and physicality. The class also features good offensive talent such as athlete Michael Campanaro (Clarksville, Md./River Hill), who's a somewhat undersized but versatile all-purpose back.
Top prospect: Wake Forest has had good success recruiting at Nease High School in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., and for the second year in a row could have its top prospect hail from that program. The current top prospect for the Demon Deacons is defensive tackle Frank Souza (Nease), a smart, lunch-bucket type of player. He has good size and displays good quickness off the ball. Souza is not the greatest athlete among the top defensive tackle prospects, but he compensates for his liabilities by playing smart and using technique. It is tough for true freshmen to see the field at Wake Forest, but Souza is a sound, productive player who could see the field in the 2009 season. If not next season, he should be a productive and dependable starter for a few years for the Demon Deacons.
What to expect: Wake Forest might not add any other players between now and signing day. Also, this class may give the Demon Deacons their best finish in our conference recruiting rankings.
Craig Haubert is the recruiting coordinator for Scouts Inc. and has more than a decade of coaching experience. Haubert was an assistant at the University of Nebraska-Omaha and also served as the fullbacks/linebackers coach and director of football operations for the Detroit Fury of the Arena Football League.
With a strong group of recruits secured and a few more prospects in its sights, Florida State could have one of the nation's top 2009 recruiting classes, writes Craig Haubert.